The Bones of Prayer

Prayer is big when it comes to following Jesus. We all want to know how to talk with God, and how to do it properly. Prayer comes easy to some. For most of us, however, it can be a struggle, especially when God seems silent as we wait for answers.

We see in Luke 11 how the Savior offered a straightforward and simple way. Here, in this passage, He gave us the bones about how to structure our talks with God. He spoke from His experience as a real, flesh-and-blood human being.

Let’s first talk about the Person of Jesus and His manner as He walked here on earth. God the Son talked with God the Father in the power of God the Spirit. That was His mode of operation because He came to live under the sun as the Son.

The reality of the three Persons of God is presented to us in terms of relationship. The basis for the Lords oneness, wholeness, and righteousness is defined by the exchanges we are shown in the Scriptures.

In the mid-300s, Gregory of Nazianzus was one the earliest Christian theologians to write about the interaction among Father, Son, and Spirit.  He described the relation as a perichoresis in his Greek text. The word speaks of a manner of dance and rotation. Think of “choreography” in English.

As believers, born again into eternal life, we enter into this relationship. It happened when we called on the Name of Jesus and received His salvation. By this, each of us is hid with Christ in God, sealed and inhabited by the Holy Spirit, able to go to the Father as members of the royal family of believer priests.

We are invited to the Dance that has been set in motion in the purposes of God.

A Request

Prayer was something that Jesus did and did often. This should come as no surprise to us. He did a lot of praying by Himself without an audience. He would seek a secret place, on a hill sometimes, to enter into communion.

This Luke 11 lesson was sought – a disciple asked Jesus to teach about how to pray. Some subjects – reading, writing, arithmetic – are requirements for learning. We had to sit through lectures, complete class work, and do homework on these basic elements.

Other subjects were classified as electives. We, as students, were allowed to choose to enroll in some courses that piqued our curiosity.

I present that illustration because I see prayer as something that is elective. We choose to pray. It is vital to our spiritual education and maturity. But you know us humans; we do not always make the best choices for our physical health, let alone our spiritual health.

And yet the Lord never coerces us about prayer. We fall on our knees. We are never forced to pray by the Lord who made us and called us to Himself.

... the Lord never coerces us about prayer. We fall on our knees. We are never forced to pray by the Lord who made us and called us to Himself. Click To Tweet

Prayer wasnt a new idea. John the Baptist taught the ones who came to him to pray. I am sure Jesus led the group in seasons of prayer and often recited with them the prescribed supplications detailed in the Old Testament.

There is the Shema, for example, from Numbers 6:24-26  — “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

This time was different. The disciples had watched Jesus at prayer. He was doing this in a certain place, maybe this scene happened in Gethsemane. We understand from the Passion Week stories in the gospels that this olive garden in which Jesus was arrested was a spot where He was known to resort to for prayer.

Once Jesus finished praying, a disciple made a request:  “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

A Guide

The Savior got right to it, giving them a pattern. These lines spoken by Him are known as “The Lords Prayer” or the “Our Father.”

We recite these sentences sometimes. The words have been built into liturgies that are followed in more traditional churches.

We should not be fearful to use the tools God has given us. They are just as much gifts to us as any talent that we may possess. Scripture prayers and the Psalms are there to help us when we have trouble finding something to say.

Lets look at the guide that Jesus put forth.

We begin by directing ourselves to the One we want to hear us:  “Our Father.” Those first words carry great significance. Jesus told us to pray as sons and daughters just as He prays as the Son. He is “Our Father” by our relationship in Christ.

The two words also indicate community. Pray “Our Father” rather than “My Father.”  Each of us has a share in Him as members of the Body of Christ. We are not alone in this world. The Lord called us to realize the goodness of unity found in the divine institutions of family, congregation, and nation.

The Lord called us to realize the goodness of unity found in the divine institutions of family, congregation, and nation. Click To Tweet

The next part of the guide speaks of where the Father is, Who He is, and what His sovereign intentions are.

Where is He? He is seated above in Heaven. The Creator watches with a view over all Creation.

Who is He? He is holy. He possesses the only Name and character that is worthy of all praise and honor.

What is He doing? He is allowing His Kingdom to come into a world that is disordered in rebellion. His will, perfected and fully understood from Heaven, is being worked out on earth.

Jesus arrived as the Son of Man to finish the work of redemption, to be the Lamb slain to take away the sin of the world. His program for reconciliation and restoration goes forward as His chosen ones are commissioned to live for Him and before our neighbors in truth, mercy, and grace.

Hunger and Thirst

Start every prayer with the understanding of the One you are addressing. Then proceed to tell Him the other stuff, and be confident about it.

Ask Him for bread. Seek the Lord for the food you need for your body and for the Word from Him to feed your heart and mind. Dont be shy about this. Our Father knows what we need. He knows when were hungry.

He also knows how thirsty we are. Dryness of spirit is what we address in the next part of this prayer pattern: “And forgive us our sins. …”

The thirsty and parched part comes from Davids song in Psalm 32. Consider the king of Israels monstrous failure in taking Bathsheba in adultery and sending her husband to death in battle. He did not get away with this.

Harsh chastisement from God fell on David, evidenced by this line:  “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my groaning all day. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4).

Later in Psalm 32, David wrote of acknowledging His sin and making confession. Restoration came to him so that he finished the psalm with these words:  “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous, and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11).

We seek His forgiveness and then we extend that same forgiveness to others. By this we learn to be merciful as He is merciful. Click To Tweet

We seek His forgiveness and then we extend that same forgiveness to others. By this we learn to be merciful as He is merciful.

This is beyond our own doing, of course. We need the Holy Spirit to shed the love of God in our hearts.

This very Spirit sent to live in us and empower us is the One who is the key to the finishing part of this prayer pattern. “And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.”

Discernment from the Spirit directs us in our walk with the Lord. We will know who and what to avoid. When the troubles of life leave us wounded, pained, and scarred, He cares and comforts so we are not swallowed by the enemy.

Finishing Thoughts

This pattern serves to frame my prayers, but what really helps me is what Jesus says next. In Luke 11:5-13, we read about the Savior encouraging us to ask, seek, and knock. We are to make a habit of approaching the Lord.

Jesus uses a story of someone in need of bread, pounding on a neighbor’s door in the middle of the night. At first, there is refusal, but the knocking goes on until the bread is given. The point of this is that we are to go boldly to God.

Ask and receive. Seek and find. Knock and the door will open.

The Savior concludes by emphasizing the character of the heavenly Father. No true father on earth would tease and torture his children with stones, snakes, and scorpions when they ask and seek for something to eat. Good fathers living in the midst of evil treat their sons and daughter with love and care.

Here’s the climax of the whole lesson. Think of the Father’s love for you, and ask for the Holy Spirit. He shall be yours.

There you have it: Heaven’s way to pray. Start with Our Father, recognize your place in the Son, and receive the gift of the Spirit. You shall not be denied.

Steve Andrulonis
Latest posts by Steve Andrulonis (see all)